U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert now faces a seasoned Republican challenger in state Sen. Don Coram, who said he plans to unseat the congresswoman by tracking firmly down the political middle, flexing his bipartisan muscles.
Coram officially announced Friday afternoon that he’s seeking the Republican nomination for Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District, hoping to unseat the nationally recognized Boebert. If Coram’s bid, reported Wednesday by the Montrose Daily Press, is successful it will mark the second time the district’s incumbent was ousted in as many elections.
The bolo-tie sporting state senator told The Denver Post he holds many attributes that his opponent does not, repeating his familiar mantra: “The R behind my name stands for “rural.”
Coram points to his bipartisan track record as a lawmaker who has been able to pass meaningful legislation. He called “excessive partisanship” the biggest threat to the country’s young republic and said he’s able to disagree without being disagreeable. All traits, he notes, not held by the incumbent Boebert, from Silt.
“I’ve been in the majority. I’ve been in the minority. Look at the legislation I’ve carried,” he said. “I can offer effective representation and be respectful in doing so.”
Coram’s bid is still a long shot, political scientists say. Although, they acknowledge that he might have a better shot than Boebert’s Democratic challengers. They’ll be watching to see how well he can compete with Boebert’s well-established fundraising apparatus and whether other Republicans, business people and faith leaders back his campaign.
The odds are against Coram, said Justin Gollob, a political science professor at Colorado Mesa University. But he does have a path forward, albeit narrow.
“She’s got a big head start and that matters. She’s got a big microphone and that matters. She’s got a loyal base and that matters,” Gollob said.
Closing the campaign finance gap
By the end of September, the most recent finance reports available from the Federal Elections Commission, Boebert had 30-times more cash on hand than her next closest challenger: $1.7 million compared to Democratic Debora Burnett’s $55,712.
Democratic state Sen. Kerry Donovan had the strongest cash-on-hand advantage with more than $600,000 tucked away but she dropped out of the race in November after congressional redistricting placed her outside the 3rd District.
Boebert has another primary challenger, Marina Zimmerman, though so far FEC filings show she’s raised no money and she has never before held public office.
Coram conceded that he’s never raised millions for past political races but noted it’s never been necessary. In the past he encouraged donors to give to other campaigns. But he’ll need money moving forward and has a strategy to find it.
“I do have national connections,” Coram said. “We will be able to raise funds. We will have a tremendous ground game.”
The state senator also said he’ll make every dollar count more so than his opponent.
“I’ve looked at how she spends money,” Coram said.
But Boebert has a distinct advantage with her already developed fundraising connections but also partially with her outsider status since House Republicans are in the minority, Thomas Zeitzoff, a professor with American University in Washington D.C. specializing in political violence and psychology, said.
“She can burnish those credentials, she’s fundraised off it,” Zeitzoff said.
Partisan activists are energized locally and nationally, Zeitzoff said, and they’re willing to donate to Congressional campaigns like Boebert’s.
Popularity on the Western Slope
Boebert’s willingness to wade into identity politics and jab local or national Democrats can turn voters off, Zeitzoff said. Despite her repeatedly racist and Islamophobic comments directed at Democratic colleague Rep. Ilhan Omar, the Western Slope conservative appears to maintain a stronghold on her district.
“Primary voters in Boebert’s district might be the most energized partisans, they may not care that she’s being nasty,” Zeitzoff said. “They’ll care more about the fact that she’s a fighter and she’s talking about how bad the Democrats actually are.”
But the congresswoman has a weakness there too, Seth Masket, a political scientist with the University of Denver, said.
“She’s only there because Scott Tipton (whom she defeated in 2020) ignored his primary challenger,” Masket said. “She’s still a freshman. She’s still vulnerable. She has some friends within the larger Trump universe but is not necessarily really well situated at home.”
Coram’s strategy of hitting Boebert from the middle is less common but potentially the best chance at a successful primary challenge, Masket said.
The state senator can likely rustle up endorsements from his colleagues in the statehouse, Masket said. But Boebert might shake that off by claiming she’s never been popular with the political establishment.
Rather, the more telling endorsements will probably come from businessmen and women, faith leaders and other prominent figures, he said.
Coram will have to build from the ground up, Gollob said. Without those endorsements “it will basically be crickets.”
While voters on the extreme right and left garner the most attention, Coram said the vast majority are left in the middle of the road. He estimated that 80% of the people in the district feel ignored.
“Republicans and Democrats are losing registration by the day,” Coram said. “The new majority is the unaffiliated.”
That’s the market into which he plans to tap.
Representatives for Boebert did not respond to a message seeking comment for this report.
Priorities within the 3rd Congressional District
Jobs and the economy top Coram’s list of concerns for the Western Slope, he said.
“Inflation is taking a big bite out of us here,” he said.
He added that increasing healthcare costs and a lack of access to medical professionals are two more high-profile issues.
Plus, if the Western Slope is to compete professionally, Coram said its residents will need much greater access to broadband internet. That would level the playing field with education as well.
He continued to point to his history at the Capitol and his philosophical approach to public office.
“My theory is the right thing is not always easy but it’s always going to be right,” he said.